Key findings from the People at the Centre programme of engagement to capture the health and wellbeing experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ALLIANCE’s People at the Centre programme (PatC) engaged with people across Scotland to capture the lived health and wellbeing experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help inform the Mobilisation Recovery Group’s (MRG) (this link will take you aware from our website) work in the re-mobilisation of health and care services. The programme, in collaboration with delivery partners including Healthcare Improvement Scotland – Community Engagement, engaged with over 1000 people across Scotland’s 32 Local Authority areas from September 2020 to December 2020.
Throughout this engagement, people told us how the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of the resulting restrictions have disempowered many of them in their ability to access health services and negatively impacted their health and human rights. As we live with, and look beyond the pandemic, people should be equal partners in decision making across the healthcare system.
“They felt like they are inaccessible unless you have COVID. I received messages from GPs advising not to visit the surgery at all, but never received a message saying it was now safe to do so”
The use of digital services and virtual consultations to increase the availability of and access to healthcare services has been welcomed. The wider implementation and use of digital technologies should continue, but this should not become the default mechanism for accessing services, as people also shared how important it is that other routes, such as face to face appointments, remain available.
Peoples’ mental health has been impacted. The fear and stress of living through a pandemic has abounded. Reduced access to family, friends, self-care routines and mental health support services have left people feeling isolated and cut off. As healthcare services remobilise support for mental health recovery must be prioritised.
“It’s been extremely negative on my mental health and wellbeing to never leave the house. Particularly that I cannot visit family”
The pandemic has also exposed the breadth of health inequalities that continue to permeate all levels of our society. People living with long term conditions, disabled people, unpaid carers, minority ethnic communities, those who live in Care Homes and many others have shared the disproportionate negative impact on their health, wellbeing and rights that they have experienced. More must be done to ensure that there is a standard consistency of care and equitable access to services across Scotland. Investing in clear, inclusive communication is a core component of this.
People have shared how their wellbeing extends far beyond the healthcare services they receive. Changes to people’s economic circumstances, access to social care support and ability to attend work, education and places of worship all interweave with their sense of wellbeing. Flexible, person centred healthcare services, which recognise the holistic nature of individuals are therefore fundamental to meeting people’s needs.
There have also been many positive examples given of healthcare services supporting people during this time. Pharmacies and emergency services have been commended in their ability to adapt to changing circumstances and continue to deliver a high quality of care. People have shared that they really value the NHS, the people who deliver it and the provision of healthcare, but that it requires increased investment to be able to deliver the level of care and outcomes to which they aspire.
“I’d like to pay tribute to our amazing health care workers from the cleaners to the secretaries, to the physios and doctors. They have been incredible.”
It has also demonstrated how effective people, communities, the third sector and wider healthcare system can be as a collective force. People and communities have been assets to the healthcare system at this time, supporting themselves and one another to live well. Adequate resourcing is required to nurture these vibrant communities to grow organically and sustainably and continue supporting and strengthening healthcare in Scotland.
The full report from the PatC programme “Health, Wellbeing and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Scottish Experiences and Priorities for the Future” is available to read on the ALLIANCE’s website, as is the Executive Summary of the report, the Easy Read Executive Summary, Arabic Executive Summary, Polish Executive Summary and Simplified Chinese Executive Summary. A British Sign Language translation will also be available shortly.